2005: Special Conference, Edgefield, South Carolina
In March 2005, BrANCH held a special conference in Edgefield, South Carolina, at the invitation of Vernon Burton and Bettis Rainsford. Most academic sessions were held in the Piedmont Technical College Edgefield Center, and the social events at various historic sites around Edgefield.
The object of this conference was to create an intimate academic situation in which about thirty historians, drawn from Britain and
the United States and at all stages in the career cycle—from emeritus professor to graduate student—could come together to exchange ideas and research findings about American history in the mid-nineteenth century. The location of the conference in Edgefield provided the opportunity to broaden understanding of the rich internal complexity of South Carolina and the particular importance of a region of the state that often took the lead at decisive moments in a dramatic and significant history.
In the end, twenty members of BrANCH met with some fifteen US-based historians, mainly from within South Carolina, to great mutual benefit. The formal sessions were also attended by members of the public, providing an audience of between forty and fifty at most sessions.
BrANCH wishes to thank Bettis Rainsford for his most generous hospitality, and the Edgefield Historical Society, Piedmont Technical College, the University of South Carolina at Aiken, the South Carolina Humanities Council, and the Edgefield District Genealogical Society for their invaluable support.
For a report and pictures on the conference in the local paper, the Edgefield Advertiser, click here
Welcoming Reception at Oakley Park.
The opening reception was held at a mansion that is now the Red Shirt Shrine of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Built at the height of Edgefield’s antebellum prosperity in 1835, the house is principally remembered as the home of Major General Martin Witherspoon Gary, CSA (1831-1881), as he lived here during the “Struggles of 1876,” and directed the Democratic campaign from this house. The house contains furnishings of the period as well as a very interesting collection of Civil War relicts. Banjo entertainment was provided by a “Confederate soldier”.
Introductory Round-table Discussion:
1. The Edgefield District in Southern History
Chair: Donald Ratcliffe (BrANCH Chair)
Bettis Rainsford (Edgefield County Historical Society)
Vernon Burton (University of Illinois)
James Farmer (University of South Carolina, Aiken)
This informal round table was held in the main courtroom at the Edgefield County Courthouse. Built in 1838-1839 to a design inspired by South Carolina’s famous architect, Robert Mills, this courthouse has been the seat of government in Edgefield County since that time, and continues as an active courtroom today.
2. The Complexities of Manifest Destiny
Chair: Richard Blackett (Vanderbilt University)
Don Doyle (University of South Carolina): Manifest Destiny, Race, and the Limits of Expansion
Donald Ratcliffe (University of Oxford): Manifest Destiny, Jacksonian Democracy, and British Neo-Colonialism
3. Democracy and the Democracy
Chair: Daniel Walker Howe (Oxford and UCLA)
Silvana Siddali (St. Louis): Democracy, Fraud, and Representation in the Middle Land: The Fight over Antebellum Capital Cities in Iowa
James Simeone (Illinois Wesleyan University): Democracy as Egalitarian Opposition: Illinois’ Whole Hog Democrats and the Politics of Identity
Yonatan Eyal (Harvard University): ‘Rift in the Democracy’: Young America, River and Harbor Improvements, and the Old Northwest.
Lunchtime tour of Edgefield Square and other selected sites in the immediate vicinity, including Edgefield Historical Society, the Tompkins Library (home of the Edgefield District Genealogical Society), and Edgefield Pottery.
4. Gender, Class, and the Law
Chair: Chair: Valinda Littlefield (University of South Carolina)
Elizabeth Clapp (University of Leicester): Wills, Widows, and the Courts in Early Nineteenth Century Virginia: The Case of Roane vs. Royall
James Campbell (University of Portsmouth): ‘No Proper Course to take Except that of the Law’? Criminal Justice and Constructions of White Class and Gender Identities in the Antebellum South
5. Perspectives on Reconstruction
Chair: William McKee Evans (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
Nichola Clayton (University of Sheffield): ‘Idle, Thriftless Vagabonds’ or ‘the Germ of That Middling Class’? Interpretations of Freedom in the British West Indies in the Debates over Post-Emancipation Policy during Civil War and Reconstruction
Lewie Reece (Anderson College): A New Constitutional and Political Order: Southern Republicans and the Politics of Race During Reconstruction
Held at the new Discovery Center for the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, an important recent addition to Edgefield.
6. Northern Concerns
Chair: David Wykes (Dr. Williams’ Library, London)
David Turley (University of Kent): Beyond Denomination and Without the State: Boston Unitarians and Styles of Reform, 1820s-1860s
John Killick (University of Leeds): Northern Shipping and the South: The Cope Lines Voyages to Southern Ports
7. Antebellum Politics
Chair: Robert Cook (University of Sheffield)
Owen Butler (University of Nottingham): Nativism, Unionism, and the Success of Southern Know-Nothings, 1854-55
Bruce Collins (Sheffield Hallam University): The Democrats and the Union on the Eve of the Civil War
David Brown (University of Sheffield): The Speakership Contest of 1859 and the Crisis of the Union
Lunch in Willowbrook Cemetery
A picnic lunch was followed by a tour of this most interesting resting place for four of South Carolina’s governors, two of its United States Senators, Congressman Preston S. Brooks of the Charles Sumner caning fame, the ‘Queen of the Confederacy,’ Lucy Holcombe Pickens, and a host of other notables.
8. Confederate Nationalism
Chair: Michael Perman (University of Illinois)
Vernon Burton (University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign) and Ian Binnington (Eastern Illinois University): ‘And Bid Him Bear a Patriot’s Part’: National and Local Perspectives on Confederate Nationalism
9. The Edgefield District and Reconstruction
Chair: Wanda A. Hendricks (University of South Carolina)
James O. Farmer (University of South Carolina, Aiken): ‘Visitors Will Find a Welcome’: Aiken, South Carolina, and the Northern Leisure Class, 1866-1890
Tour of Mount Vintage Plantation
This famous Edgefield Plantation dates from the late 18th century, but attained its greatest fame under the ownership of that
remarkable German immigrant, Christian Breithaupt (1781-1835). Today the plantation also includes most of Chester Plantation, the home of the Tillman family, where Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918) was born and grew up. During the past decade, the Plantation has been redeveloped into one of the best golf course and residential communities in America. Dinner was held in the Clubhouse which is a beautifully restored antebellum house (circa 1840).
10. Planter Values
Chair: Dan Preston (James Monroe Papers, University of Mary Washington)
Daniel Littlefield (University of South Carolina): R.F.W. Allston and The Limits of States Rights and Planter Paternalism
Christer Petley (Leeds Metropolitan University): ‘A Certain Consciousness of Equality’: White Male Solidarity and Slavery in Early Nineteenth-Century Jamaica
11. Marital Relations in Slavery
Chair: Valinda Littlefield (University of South Carolina)
Emily West (University of Reading): Marriage under the Peculiar Institution: The Spousal Obligations of Slaves in South Carolina
Rebecca Griffin (University of York): ‘Taking a Whipping for Lily’: Slave Courtships and Gendered Identities in Antebellum North Carolina
Barbecue lunch at the Tompkins Library
This genealogical library on the Town Square contains a wealth of information for historians and genealogists alike.
12. Death in the Civil War
Chair: Vernon Burton (University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign)
Larry McDonnell (independent scholar): ‘He Fell and Did Not Rise Again’: Warwork, Dying, and Killing in the Civil War
Susan Mary Grant (University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne): Raising the Dead: American National Identity and the Civil War Dead
Reception at Carroll Hill.
This fine house, built circa 1842, was the home of Chancellor James Parsons Carroll (1809-1883), signer of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession and of his nephew-in-law, General R.G.M. Dunovant, CSA (1821-1898). General Dunovant was in command of the South Carolina troops in Charleston at the time of Secession.